Claiming faith

Published 11:58 am Saturday, April 25, 2015

by Andrew Book

One of the best parts about being a pastor is helping people along the journey of faith. Too often, we think of “being a Christian” as an event — something that happens when we pray a prayer asking for salvation or make a commitment to follow Jesus. Those events are important, but they are only one part of the entire journey of our lives of faith. I have had the privilege of helping people who have been committed followers of Jesus for decades take new steps in their life of faith, as well as helping those who have always had questions about God and faith to begin to embrace an understanding that they have a God who loves them. I have also had the chance to sit with people who have hard questions to ask God as they face the challenges of life. I have watched their faith change as they wrestle with God in the dark places of life. I love those opportunities (even the hard ones) because I am confident that any time we are seeking to understand God more fully, God has a great chance to work in our lives!

At Courtland United Methodist Church, we currently have a group of sixth-ninth graders who are in the middle of this process. They are going through what we in the Methodist church call “confirmation” — the part of their faith journey where we get together to explore faith and take a hard look at whether they want to embrace the Christian faith as their own. In this time, we are intentional to give these youth the tools they need to understand Christianity and consider pursuing God, but we also make sure they understand that this is their faith journey now. As much as we all rely on our family and community, the decisions we make about following God must be our own.

Most of you who are reading this article are not in a confirmation class. Most of you have probably made some decisions about your faith in the past, but I want to encourage you today to look at the decisions of the past and consider what new decisions you can make today to continue on the journey of faith. Joining a church or other faith group is easy. Praying a prayer is easy. Continuing to grow in faith daily is hard because it means that each day we are making a fresh decision to pursue God. There is an interesting passage in the Biblical book of Hebrews.

Hebrews writes:

“11 We have a lot to say about this topic, and it’s difficult to explain, because you have been lazy and you haven’t been listening. 12 Although you should have been teachers by now, you need someone to teach you an introduction to the basics about God’s message. You have come to the place where you need milk instead of solid food” (Hebrews 5:11-12).

It appears that even in the early church, there were people who had made a decision to be a Christian or prayed a prayer to accept Christ, but they stopped right there. They did not understand that faith was a journey where they could continue to grow and change. Instead, they kept on drinking “milk” instead of pursuing God, learning, serving others, teaching and studying so that they could have “solid food.”

As someone whose job invites me to learn about God and try to follow God more fully, I am often awed by how incredible God is and how much more I have to learn. I am regularly humbled by the ways I can grow in my life of faith and service. Every person of deep faith who I know shares this commitment to continually pursue God, which is why they have continued to grow in their faith over the months and years since they first made the decision to follow Christ.

My hope and prayer for you today is that you will look at your own journey of faith. Are you moving or have you become stuck? Are you growing up to feed yourself (pursue God yourself) or just continuing to drink the “milk” that someone else feeds you (listening to a sermon and then going back to life as usual)?

At Courtland United Methodist Church, we are in the midst of a series focusing on “Relying on God in a Do-It-Yourself World.” If you are looking to be challenged to rely on God in your life, join us. But whether you come and worship with us or not, at the end of the day, each one of us must decide for ourselves whether we want to continue on our journey of faith or simply wait for someone else to feed us. May you journey on!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or